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28 Oct, 2008 10:26

Tobacco industry to go up in smoke?

Tobacco industry to go up in smoke?

The British government is planning a crushing blow against tobacco companies. Fancy cigarette packs should be replaced by standardised white boxes, think the country’s health guards.

In a highly competitive tobacco market, it’s the ‘magic’ of the brand that makes most people buy certain cigarettes. Health officials seem to be well informed about it.

“Wrapping cigarettes in attractive packaging is one of the last marketing tools left for tobacco companies,” said Elspeth Lee, the head of tobacco control at Cancer Research UK.

According to a proposed Department of Heath regulation, cigarette packages should be standardised. Packs will be made of plain cardboard, bearing only the brand name written in standard typeface, with formal content information and health warning as required by law.
The measure also entails prohibiting selling cigarettes via vending machines and availability only in packs of 20. This would mean phasing out the packs of ten favoured by teenagers.

The tobacco industry is alarmed by the probable regulation.

“Plain packaging would level the playing field, making premium brands less attractive to smokers, and would lead to a rapid increase in the downgrading trend which has been going on for years in the UK, far and away the most expensive country in Europe for smokers,” Adam Spielman, a tobacco analyst at Citigroup, was quoted as saying by The Observer newspaper.

Analysts repeat that the ban on branding would impact famous brands as smokers would most likely switch to cheaper options.

The British health workers, however, seem to be content with the idea.

Deborah Arnott, director of health at campaigning charity Ash told the source that plain packs mean the certain death knell to industry profits.

“The industry cannot survive without recruiting replacements for the 100,000 UK citizens its products kill each year,” she said. “Most new smokers are children and young people, who our research shows find plain packs much less attractive.”